Spring on the Prairie – May edition

Back again…on the other side where I thought I might have a little easier go of getting down river. I did and I didn’t. As before, I planned to hike past everything in my pursuit of getting as far as I could, but I had to stop for these – nodding trillium!

I haven’t seen them since my last spring in NH and that was the first time seeing them. It was a treat. They can get lost in the sea of great white trillium that bloom at the same time, but there are subtle differences in the leaves that I noticed before I stopped to really check. When I did I had to break out the gear. The light might not have been good on the way back or it might be raining (forecast called for pop-up showers all day).

Soon though I was on my way. There is a trail on this side, but it stops where a stream comes in and then you have to bushwhack. It gets muddy through some alders on both sides of the tributary. I found a relatively easy place to cross (going through a tight stand of trees) and I made my way through the mud to a large area of basically cobblestones where I got up onto the bank where a mixed forest takes over. It started raining harder, but not for long and I could set up for what turned out to be the only landscape of the water from this area.

Sunshine on a rainy day

It’s quite a placid part of the river and nothing in the foreground apart from this marsh marigold presented itself. But on a funny note, there’s a trail that follows the bank along this part. Not just a game trail either, although that might be what it started as. Much easier and I had hopes that walking along up river might get me around the muddy parts and the alder stands. In some parts, it gets very thin, but you can still follow it.

A faint reply

Along with marsh marigold and trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit was blooming all over. They are such an interesting flower in many respects and I’ve only shot them well once. Part of the challenge is how 3-dimensional they are, with the side and front views being so different. So color me overjoyed to find this pair –

Not so joyous is the heavy undergrowth it was standing in. I did my best with a multi-shot stack shot at f/3.2, and a lot of manipulation in post, but it’s still kind of busy. Maybe the raindrops make up for it.

Recently I learned that they should be called Jack-or-Jill-in-the-pulpit. Like most plants there are males and females, but these plants actually change genders depending on conditions. Mostly conditions that effect how much nutrients can be stored as energy in part of the root system called a corn. While gathering energy and storing it, the plant is male and generally smaller than the plant will be when it’s female. While gathering energy the male produces a flower with pollen only. This uses relatively few calories. But when there is enough in storage, the plant changes genders and produces a flower that will turn to fruit with seeds once pollinated. After that the plant reverts to male status and begins the cycle again. Over the life of a single individual the gender can change many times. Nature never fails to astound me.

A few minutes after this image I came to the end of the DNR property and to a cross street. I knew right where I was and if I ever find the need to explore this area again, I can park on that street and take advantage of the trail that comes out there. Judging by the trash left behind here and there, some jerks come in to fish.

When things like this are in the trail itself, it’s a good bet it’s hardly ever used –

Old is new again

It’s something like a 15-image stack and I love how the moss underneath the bark is visible. I think this is all that’s left of a fallen tree, not just bark that sloughed off. It’s so wet it’s dark and saturated. The little maple seedling is the kicker though.

So I made my way down the trail to where I veered off by the field of cobblestones. It went past there and split. Right went up a hill to the back of a field, straight ahead through the trees and around the mud. Until it didn’t. Try as I might, I couldn’t find where the trail picked up again after it petered out in a stand of small white pines with their dead lower branches waiting to poke eyes and knock off hats. Bah. It would have to be back through the mud and alder stand.

Resuming the trail from the other road, I found more Nodding trillium on a pretty large rock. It was tough to get the tripod on there since there wasn’t really enough room, but I managed.

I also managed to slide on some mud and bash my knee as I fell. Just a bruise, but omg was I completely filthy by this point. Even as gently as I tried to go through the vegetation, I still had dirt and mud all over my pants and some on my jacket. There was even dirt on my face!! It was really funny in a way. What am I, six? When I got home I threw my clothes into the set tub to soak and me into the shower. Wine was definitely a must!

It was worth it though. I got out onto some of the big boulders on the side and photographed the same scene as I had in the winter. The roar filled my ears and the beauty my psyche. This is my favorite stretch so far. And it’s funny, I found a photo by someone else that shows this tree well above the water and reaching to the other side. Too funny. Now it makes for a nice foreground element.

Although this project is one of documentation and exploration, I have gone down the path of artistic experimentation. Documentary photography has to be minimally manipulated if at all. Crazy processing or big changes to the picture at a pixel level are not kosher. But sometimes in the effort to serve the final image, a big change is necessary to produce artwork versus mere illustration. Here is what I mean –

Two different shots, but similar camera position. One is reality, one reversed. If you think about it logically you can tell which is which.

It’s well-known that most people prefer images to flow from left to right in terms of composition. It’s thought that it’s because most languages are written and read from left to right. Images like this one, are problematic in another way – that the water is flowing away from the viewer, not toward. In my experience, it’s more common to photograph rivers and streams with the water coming at you. I do it myself that way most of the time and so water flowing away is a little odd. Couple that with the right to left flow and you can have an image that is too jarring. Granted, some people prefer it that way because it’s different and that it directs the eye through the image in an uncommon way. So I have both. If you have any thoughts about how the two images strike you, let me know.

Moving up stream and back toward the car I stopped to photograph some bellwort. It’s one of the only times I’ve photographed the flower at all even though it’s very common. Mostly that has to do with the fact that they bloom at the start of bug season. While taking this picture I lost just about all my patience (and nearly my blood) and so hustled out of here without doing them justice. I really should have done some focus bracketing, but I was maddened by mosquitoes, absolutely filthy with sweat and bug spray running into my eyes and the wind was just strong enough to make this a very time-consuming pursuit. So you’re going to have to put up with a single shot until I find renewed patience. Next year.

With bug season here, I think this will be the last time I visit the Prairie for a while. Just too miserable. I have plans to paddle the headwaters so stay tuned for that.

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